Up to 20,000 people marched against austerity in central London today, Saturday, in a loud and lively protest called by the People's Assembly.
Shoppers cheered and clapped, and cars and buses hooted their horns in support. People from all over Britain came to take on the Tories over a wide range of issues.
Beverley White from Cardiff People's Assembly told Socialist Worker she was marching because of “the bedroom tax, benefit sanctions, the lot”. Beverley, a single mother, hadn't been able to afford any gas for two weeks.
Steve Bradfield from Shrewsbury said “People we've never seen before have come out today because they are worried about the cuts to services.”
There were anti-war, disability and benefit justice campaigners, and an international solidarity section taking part in a day of solidarity with detainees in Egypt.
And there were many workers preparing to strike together over pay on 10 July. Teachers from the NUT union made up the biggest contingent of trade unionists.
Sheena Wheatley from Nottingham NUT told Socialist Worker, “We've brought two coach loads from Nottingham, half of them teachers. We had big demonstrations during the last strike, and we want to see a programme of industrial action that can get Michael Gove out.
“We don't want big gaps between strikes—the government's attacks are going on all the time and we need to fighting back all the time.”
Simon Brett is a member of the PCS union at HMRC in Leeds. Workers there are set to strike next week, and could be part of the 10 July action too.
Simon said, “This demo is helping to build the idea of action. It's particularly useful for newer activists in the union who haven't seen solidarity like this before.”
The protest marched from outside the BBC headquarters to Parliament Square, with speeches at either end followed by a carnival of music and performances. Marchers booed as they passed 10 Downing Street, home of Tory prime minister David Cameron—and cheered at every mention of the strikes ahead.
Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey said it should “send a message to the leaders of all the main parties—we're not willing to stand by while everything we hold dear is destroyed.”
UCU branch secretary Mandy Brown spoke about the all-out strike by UCU union members at Lambeth College. Roger Hutt, Unison steward at Care UK in Doncaster, said that workers there would “never surrender” after voting by 85 percent to continue their dispute.
Labour MP Diane Abbott had a message for Labour leader Ed Miliband about how to get rid of the Tories. She said, “We will not do it by posing with copies of The Sun. We will not do it by taking benefits from young people. And we will not do it by out-ukipping Ukip.”
Other speakers included a Ritzy cinema striker, NUT general secretary Christine Blower, Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman, Lindsey German from Stop the War Coalition, Dot Gibson from the National Pensioners' Convention.
Kate Hudson from CND contrasted the government's argument about the need for cuts with the bottomless supply of cash for nuclear weapons.
The day was a clear show of opposition to the cuts. It can be a stepping stone to a more sustained fightback, starting with the strike on 10 July.
A demonstration called by the TUC on 18 October is a chance to bring thousands more onto the streets, and there could be even bigger strikes in the autumn.
Actor and campaigner Francesca Martinez spoke for many when she told the crowd, “The system is not broken. It's working very well for those it was designed to benefit.
“They say that profit is sacred. Well you know what—fuck profit.”